ALBUM REVIEW: "MESSENGERS OF DECEPTION," TAU CROSS

Tau Cross is metal for people who are sick of living the fast paced urban lifestyle and move to the burbs or small towns to be surrounded by trees, fields, and scarecrows. They’re the kind of metal for people who appreciate the 10/31 Samhain celebration beyond just the superficial candy, horror movies, girls in slutty costumes, and, well, listening to Samhain; the kind of metal for people who wanted to take part in the celebration in The Wicker Man before they burned the guy to death. 

But, first a bit of history for the uninitiated. Tau Cross is led by bassist/singer/songwriter Rob “the Baron” Miller, arguably the most iconoclastic punk rocker next to John Lydon (we’ll get to that later). He originally was in Amebix with his brother Stig and a drummer named Spider, and Amebix were ostensibly a punk band playing to punk fans. However their music more sounds like a weird type of heavy metal, focusing on repetition of crunchy riffs with weird noises and soundscapes piled on top, to create an oppressive, paranoid vibe, eschewing political sloganeering for just an all-encompassing “the government is gonna get you” vibe; also with a little horror thrown in (“lock up your children, the axe man is coming!”). More succinctly, they sound like Killing Joke crossed with Celtic Frost or Joy Division with Venom, and they released three albums (Arise! (1985), Monolith (1987), and Sonic Mass (2011)) before calling it a day.

After that, the Baron formed Tau Cross with Michel “Away” Langevin from Voivod on drums, along with Jon Misery, Tom Radio, and Andy Lefton, all from various bands (google ‘em!) on guitars and keyboards respectively. 

Tau Cross released two albums through Relapse, the first of which actually was listed as no. 3 on the Rolling Stone list of top 20 metal albums of 2015, and they were just about release their third, Messengers of Deception, before the cancel culture stepped in leaving the Baron without a band or record label. After the album had been completed, several pressings made, and the record about to ship, Relapse pulled the plug. This writer has only seen photos of the original version, and oh what might have been! If you saw what the gorgeous album sleeve looked like, you too would cry foul at the travesty of Relapse literally destroying every last copy. Being the annoying fanboy that I am, I messaged the Baron a number of times asking if he had any copies of his own to sell, but, sadly, this was not to be. 

But, dwelling on what might have been is a fool’s game. The Baron assembled an entirely new band with the Kurgan on guitar and Talamh on drums, found a new label called Easy Action Records that isn’t run by a bunch of wimps, and re-recorded the entire damn thing, knocking off a song here, rearranging one there. 

So now we have a new Messengers of Deception, and I quite like it! It’s also arguably the Baron’s most metal release. That might seem like a redundant statement, since all of the Baron’s work is pretty metal sounding, but a lot of the riffs are surprisingly NWOBHM, trad, or power metal. Hell, “Burn with Me”, “Babylonian Death Cult”, and “Messengers of Deception” even have lead breaks; and “Three Tides” could be a Manowar song, that is, if you switch out the Baron’s horse shouting with Eric Adam’s high pitched wail. 

But make no mistake; this is in no way technical music. The songs are all pretty basic, focusing on heaviness, power, texture, and melody rather than being vehicles for which the three musicians can jam out; this is not progressive or power metal. I can imagine metal fans into the more technical side of metal thinking this music is too basic. They’d, of course, be missing the point, which is that, these songs are about creating a mood. And they do that quite effectively, especially the big, orchestral ending to “Three Tides” and the very non-metal, piano backed album closer “Sorrow Draws the Plow.”

It’s kinda funny in a way, because punk rockers are supposed to be modern, cosmopolitan, sophisticated, urban slum dwellers. Yet this music, which was created by an old school punk rocker, is the very antithesis of that, practically urging the listener to get in touch with nature and the spiritual side of things, albeit not via the Abrahamic religions. It’s also no coincidence that the creator of this music forges swords by hand. Maybe it really is time to chuck the city and go back to the village.

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